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Dragging for Cats

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I started playing around slow dragging cut bait for channels last night and picked up one nice fat 26" channel and missed two. I'm starting to see lots of bait pods showing up on the St Croix and most everything is chasing them right now. On a flat calm night you can just watch across the water and see fish just hammering all the bait. Find the bait and you find the cats - they are most always in and around all that bait activity. Seems a little early in the season for the bait pods to show up but this warm water must have hatched them so the circle of life goes on. Time to chase bait and catch cats.

By the way - along with the bait hatch came a serious cruiser hatch - darn things are everywhere and throwing some serious wakes.

The St Croix has bottomed out at its normal summertime low of 675.3' and the water temp was a warm 83 degrees last night. There is a lot of backwater crud and grass floating in the current right now which must have busted loose after this last rain.

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Thanks for the update Steve. I would say Sunday was the slowest for cruiser action on Pool 2 I have seen in awhile (pending storms and cloudy I guess). The ones we did see where looked to be coming back from a weekend on the Croix.

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I'm curious as to how this differs from Drifting Steve. Is it a slower speed?

Darren -

It is basically the same thing as drifting but I use the trolling motor for good boat and speed control. A lot of times when you drift you are at the mercy of the wind or the current. Doing a slow troll gives you much better control to stay on fish.

I am slow trolling upstream at about .4 to .5 mph along a 10 to 12 foot rock rubble channel that is holding a lot of bait. There is about a .5 mph current and I'm trying to get the speed right to drag the bait just off the bottom and stay in the channel. I am running parallel with and not more than 15 feet from the shoreline. I use a Terrova trolling motor on the pontoon with auto-pilot and co-pilot so I can run the motor from the back of the boat and still handle two rods in the water.

The trick to the whole thing is getting the speed and weight of the presentation just right so that your bait is just off the bottom. The rig I am using is a sinker slide on the line above a snap swivel with a 24" leader on a 5/0 Kahle weedless hook with a large chunk of cut sucker for bait. I've starting out not having any weight on the sinker slide and that .5 mph speed seems to work for that depth at this location. I have the sinker slide on the rig so that I can quicky add or subtract weight to match the conditions. I pre-tie a bunch of walking sinkers in different weights with a short 4 inch dropper of 8 lb test mono that I hook on the sinker slide. If the sinker hangs up I just break it off and add another one just a little lighter. I also have a bunch of Slinky Sinkers in different weights and I will use those sometimes rather than mess with the walking sinkers. I don't usually bother with weight unless I am in water 15' to 20' deep. If I am using weight to the rig I will often put a rattle bobber about 4 inches in front of the bait to lift the bait off the bottom and to give it some sound.

I normally use a 5/0 circle hook but this spot has a lot of snags from rubble and debris. The weedless Kahle hook prevents most of the snags. I missed a couple of initial hits the other night and then a 26" channel just hammered one rod and that weedless Kahle hook worked fine. This is the first time I tried the weedless Kahle hooks and I like them - the rig is virtually snag free.

One thing drifting and dragging has taught me is how heavy the hunk of cut bait is. In most situations I will drift or drag at about .5 to .75 mph (less speed is always better IMO)and not use any weight at all and that cut bait is tick - tick - ticking the bottom the whole time.

I plan on doing a cat tip on this later in the season after I shake out a few bugs. I bought two outriggers which extend out 15' from the side of the boat. Using those two outriggers and having a couple of guys along we could fish 6 rods and cover about a 40' plus swath of river. It is a great way to find fish and cover a lot of ground. I didn't have good luck last year but I've refined some things and I think this will be a good presentation for cats. They do it all the time down on Santee Cooper.

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I dragged last night for 2 1/2 hours and had one small 20" channel to show for it. I had hooks in the water at 1940 and had that fish in the boat at 1948. I thought "Cool" I'm on them now. But for the next couple of hours I couldn't hook them. I had 4 solid, rod doubling hits but they didn't get hooked by the weedless hooks. I lost confidence in the hook style by the time I was done.

A friend of mine, Bret Clark, recommended I downsize my circle hook size from a 5/0 to a 1/0 and I shouldn't get hung up as much. I switched up the hooks after the last miss last night and the 1/0 circles worked fine but I never got another hit.

This technique seems to be a good daytime tactic as all my hits were during daylight. I'm going out again this weekend and try the smaller hooks and see if it improves my hookup rate.

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steve have you thought about useing planner boards at all. that might really get your line spread out to search a wider area. I know they make differnt size so you fine tune with current. toon speed,differnt dephts and so on. just a thought.

Last Tuesday I set up down riggers on the back of my boat and anchored above this 25 ft hole with a really strong current and slipped back to were I thought the curent seem would be. over the deepest part of the hole and dropped the weights down that were hooked up to the release about 8 ft from the hook with a 1 oz rubber core sinker about 12 inches from the hook and a bully for bait. I tried for a bout two hours didnt have any bites. It works great for getting the bait down to the bottom of the hole with hardly any weight to no weight on your line. The only thing that I didnt like with it was the line would arc because the current was strong. I reeled up the line but I didnt want to load the rod up like when your trolling in feer that if a cat hit it it my just pull the bait away from the fish but I may also have set the hook. I was able to run the clicker and there was so mach debris in the river after about ten minnutes the line would load up and it would pull line off much like fishing in fast current with alot of sinker . I didnt catch anything but I will try it a again when the river tames down a bit and the debris has settled down . figure that if you go over a hole and mark fish deep or break drops out you could acually set your bait down with out 8-10 oz of weight and the reason I said that much weight is because I was using that much a few daysearlier to keep a 7inch bully down.

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